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Infect Immun. 1981 April; 32(1): 24–27.
PMCID: PMC350580

Decrease of the lymphoproliferative response to varicella-zoster virus antigen in the aged.


Humoral antibodies and specific cellular immune reactions (proliferative immune response in the lymphocyte transformation test) to varicella-zoster virus antigen were measured in children, young adults, and elderly people. In children and young adults, the humoral varicella-zoster-specific antibodies and the virus-specific cellular immune response generally coincided. In the over-60 age group, however, a discrepancy was often observed between these parameters. Ninety percent of the elderly subjects showed humoral antibodies, but only 64% still had a measurable varicella-zoster-specific immune response. There was no correlation between the magnitude of the virus antigen-specific immune response and the mitogen-induced lymphoproliferative response (phytohemagglutinin stimulation). One in three elderly people, therefore, showed no cellular immune response to the varicella-zoster virus antigen, and this person could probably be regarded as a potential herpes zoster patient.

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